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Hello everyone and happy Friday. It's Shanna McCarriston here once again to catch you up on all things sports. I am more excited than I usually am on Friday, because the Tokyo Olympics officially kick off today with the opening ceremony. 

Let me know on Twitter what sports or which athletes you are looking forward to watching. I am always always beyond amazed at the GOAT Simone Biles, so I'll be tuned in to all events she is participating in. We will also get to see some sports making their Olympic debut this year and I'm curious to see how they are received. Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing will all be featured for the first time.

While we begin with the Olympics, today we will also discuss major NFL news regarding COVID-19 and much more.

Let's get started.


📰 What you need to know

1. Live updates of the opening ceremony as Tokyo Games begin 🏅

Let the games begin! The 2020 Tokyo Olympics got underway this morning with the opening ceremony at 7 a.m. ET in the United States -- which was 8 p.m. in the host city. We are covering every second of the opening ceremony, and you can follow along with our live updates right here.

As for the rest of the first day of the games, here is what is on the schedule:

  • Men's and Women's beach volleyball preliminary rounds - 8 p.m.
  • Men's gymnastics qualification - 9 p.m.
  • 3x3 Basketball Men's and Women's pool play -  9:15 p.m.  
  • Men's and Women's Boxing preliminary rounds - 10 p.m.
  • Men's and Women's tennis, first round - 10 p.m.
  • Swimming finals - Men's and Women's 400m individual medley, Men's and Women's 400m freestyle, Women's 4x100m relay 9:30 p.m.

If you need a primer on the biggest stories as these Games start, we have you covered. And don't worry, this newsletter will keep you up to date on what is happening with the Olympics. We will be sharing the daily schedule here until the Games end with the closing ceremony on August 8.

2. NFL teams with unvaccinated players could be forced to forfeit games in case of outbreak 🏈

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USATSI

Last year the NFL managed to have a complete season, but there was a lot rescheduling to make that happen. This year the league is looking to put stricter protocols in play to make sure they don't need to move schedules around as much.

The NFL notified all teams that if a game cannot be rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak that stems from unvaccinated player, the team will be forced to forfeit and a loss will be added to their record, with a win given to their opponent. Here's how the league explained it in a memo sent out this week:

  • The memo: "If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams ... Every club is obligated under the Constitution and Bylaws to have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place. A failure to do so is deemed conduct detrimental. There is no right to postpone a game."

Of note is that the NFL also notified teams that if they are forced to forfeit, they will be responsible for covering the financial losses that result. That team would also be subject to direct punishment from commissioner Roger Goodell, on top of the other penalties.

This is one way, and a strong one at that, that the league is looking to get more players vaccinated. Players will now be faced with the choice of risking their team losing a game by forfeit if they do not get vaccinated. 

3. Way too early 2021-22 NBA Power Rankings 🏀

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USATSI

The NBA season just ended, with the Milwaukee Bucks defeating the Phoenix Suns in six games, but we are already onto the 2021-22 season. Things move fast around here.

Even though the offseason just began, it's fun to start predicting how next year will shape up. Will the Suns be able to make it back to the Finals? Will the Nets live up to their stardom? Will the Lakers get healthy?

We have a lot of questions about next year already, and while we don't have sure answers, it's time to predict all this and more. Here's a look at how our NBA expert Colin Ward-Henninger sees it shaping up next year:

  • 1: Brooklyn Nets
  • 2: Milwaukee Bucks 
  • 3: Phoenix Suns
  • 4: Los Angeles Lakers
  • 5: Utah Jazz
  • 6: Los Angeles Clippers
  • 7: Philadelphia 76ers
  • 8: Golden State Warriors
  • 9: Atlanta Hawks
  • 10: Denver Nuggets

The top four isn't much of a surprise. You typically see the two teams that competed in the championship at the top of the power rankings. The Nets are of course up there with their star power and the same goes for the Lakers, who are expected to be healthier next season.

I expect a surprise team to excel next year, as usually happens. And let's be real, it's also a lot more fun when an underdog gives the top teams a run for their money.

4. Rays acquire slugger Nelson Cruz in trade with Twins ⚾

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We are still over a week away from the MLB trade deadline, but last night we got some trade action. On Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Rays made a deal to acquire slugger Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins. The deal occurred eight days before the trade deadline.

  • The Twins on Twitter"Club acquires right-handed minor league pitchers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, in exchange for designated hitter Nelson Cruz and right-handed minor league pitcher Calvin Faucher."

The Rays rank in the bottom half of the AL in OPS ( .712), so Cruz will be a helpful addition to the roster. He is batting .294/.370/.537 with 19 home runs and 50 RBI's in 85 games.

The 41-year-old is a seven-time all-star, including this year, was the American League home run leader in 2014 and was the AL RBI leader in 2017. Since 2014, Cruz's has 279 home runs -- the most of any player in baseball.

The Rays are 58-39 and sit second in the AL East, one game behind the Red Sox.


📝 Odds & Ends

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📺 What to watch tonight

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🏅 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony | Live updates | TV: fuboTV, NBC

Yankees vs. Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. | NYY/BOS both -105 | TV: MLB.TV


🥇 Best thing I saw on the internet

There are few things more fun than a championship parade. As a Boston fan, you can trust me (sorry I had to.) The Bucks celebrated their first championship in 50 years yesterday in Milwaukee and I don't know who had a better time, the players or the fans. Take a look at everything that took place at the parade.